According to Postpartum Support International, postpartum depression affects about 15% of women. A new study conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Germany showed that the disorder could impact the whole family. It seems that mom's happiness or sadness is contagious. The researchers found that depressed mothers negatively influence their babies' reactions, slowing their learning development.
"Children - and specifically infants - need infant-directed speech to get their attention to important aspects of speech and language, so they can develop properly," said Dr. Gesa Schaadt, a neuropsychologist at the Max Planck Institute. A little reminder: Baby-directed speech doesn't mean simplified speech. It is the change in the speech that mothers (and many adults) tend to use spontaneously with babies. Such differences in pitch are more prominent when mom is happy and less pronounced when she is unhappy.
But what causes postpartum depression - a condition directly related to mothers' hormone levels after birth? Estrogen and progesterone hormones, in particular, are at their highest levels during pregnancy and throughout childbirth. After, it can plummet, wreaking all kinds of havoc on the mother. Such a significant change in hormone production can lead to intense feelings of sadness, numbness, or even anger.
Interestingly, when mothers are diagnosed with postpartum depression, 50% of fathers have the symptoms, too. Around 10% of dads will also experience postpartum depression, which is the same odds for women to be diagnosed, said Dr. Daniel Singley, a board member of Postpartum Support International. But why do fathers themselves get postpartum depression when just a few years ago, they were rarely diagnosed with the condition?
If hormone levels in women explain their postpartum depression, what explains it for men? Well, it still doesn't seem very clear. Depression is simply categorized that way if the father recently had a baby. However, it can manifest with normal depression symptoms with the addition of situational ones, such as not feeling attached to the newborn or feeling a sense of loss after birth.
Singley stated, "If you have two parents who are vegetative, passive or even actively suicidal, they may not be so focused on the baby and absolutely there are problems for themselves and baby."
Picture: Parent's Joy - Kirill Lemokh (Wikimedia Commons)